Landen wrote a piece for his non-fiction class (he just turned 13 and is in 7th grade). Even with the rolling of the eyes, the sighs when asked to do any chore, the arguments over computer time... I am happy to report that my son gets it. He gets the gospel. Take a look:
Big Hope, Small Packages
I closed my eyes, trying desperately to get some sleep. The entire plane was silent. Shades were pulled over the windows. My parents told me, "The stewardesses do that to 'create the illusion' that it is night." You see, the plane was chasing daylight. Everything behind us on this 12 hour flight was experiencing dusk, but the plane was still seeing day. So, I order for people to fall asleep, they made the plane darker on from the inside.
After what felt like a lifetime, the two-story plane landed in Tokyo, Japan. From there, we got on yet another four hour flight. Our destination: Beijing, China; my first mission trip. We got our luggage and met up with Rob Foster, the missionary supported by our church. He introduced himself and we all got on a bus, headed for the hotel.
I sat with my parents instead of with my friends. On the Tokyo-to-Beijing flight, I had gotten 45 minutes of sleep. That's it. For the entire trip there. I was in no condition to socialize.
As we drove by them, my parents pointed out various points of interest: Starbucks (boy, were my parents excited), McDonalds (the golden arch had a weird, motorcycle-like symbol around it), and more. And, although I didn't see it until much later, the streets were littered with many homeless parents, clutching their dirty children tightly in their arms.
Finally, we got to the hotel. Mr. Foster told everyone to keep their eyes peeled for cockroaches. As soon as he left, I went to bed and fell asleep.
The next day, according to my mom, started with a "devotions and silent time". I do not remember this, so it is safe to assume that I was asleep.
Afterwards, my parents woke me up and everyone ate a delicious assortment of Chinese pastries. Along with this, we got an awesome brand of coffee. This kind of coffee was sweeter than any other I had ever tasted.
After the satisfying breakfast, we all got back on the bus. As Mr. Foster explained what the day's activities were, I was off in my own world. I was entranced by the busy streets of Beijing. A lot of people were riding bikes. But the think I found myself staring at the most was the homeless people. Clothed in dirty, torn, raggedy clothes, they sat against walls, still holding on to their children. Never letting go.
The rest of the day went on. Poor, dirty people crowded us, the "rich Americans", trying to sell us various items. "Booya Seasea," we told them, using the only Mandarin phrase we knew. The vendors annoyed me, but I couldn't help but pity them. They seemed desperate. We stopped at the so-called "Temple of Heaven". It pained me, personally, to see so many people, sending their prayers to lifeless statues.
The next day, after a feet-killing trek along the Great Wall, we got back on the bus for our next activity. A family in our group was adopting their fourth kid from China. Their sixth kid, total! They brought everyone to the foster home they were adopting from. The moment we walked in, we saw the hallway flooded with toddlers. Being the "toddler-magnet" I was, I instantly started to play with them.
While my mom was holding and playing "peek-a-boo" with an infant, my friend and I went up to this toddler girl, temporarily named Cindy, who was alone in a small ball pit. She enjoyed throwing balls at us and laughing at our "pain" when we flinched.
Our group stayed at the foster home for a while. All the adorable toddlers we saw put a smile on our faces. Yet, something was bothering me. Beneath all the happiness, I had a knot in my stomach. Like when you are nervous when you know something is wrong.
We left the orphanage. On the bus ride to the hotel, I realized what was nagging at the back of my conscience. None of these kids had a family. Yeah, I knew that already, but it hit closer to home this time. All these cute, lovable toddlers had no one to care for them but a nanny or nurse.
You see, China had a law that made it mandatory to only have one child. No more. If one, who lived in China, happened to have a second, or more, child, they would dump it off on the streets. Here, if he or she was lucky, they would be found by an orphanage or foster home.
The rest of the trip was life-altering. But nothing could be more humbling than finding yourself in a country, altered by poverty, seeking help from statues, and home to over 2 million orphans. Being in a room and thinking, "Wow, none of these kids have families.." Then, remembering that the orphans you were looking at were only a small number of the total. Nothing else makes you feel so small, yet so loved.
This trip reminded me to wake up and smell the coffee. It inspired me to get more involved in church. It let me know that I am truly blessed. And that I have the blessing so others may have it as well.